Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Off to conquer number 49

One thing I was able to partake in to my heart's content (and then some) while I was a senior executive, was travel.  Extensive travel.  All over the United States.  All over the world.  I've got the details posted on my website at  At last count, I've visited 61 countries (this count is always a little fuzzy as some things I wouldn't necessarily count as a separate country ended up in the totals), and 48 of the States.  And just in case  you're wondering, I don't count a  location in my total if I never left the airport.

The two states I've never been to are Hawaii and Vermont.  Yeah, I know, kind of an odd combination

We lived in Boston for the better part of two years, but never made it to Vermont.  Never had a good reason to go there, it seemed.  And since there aren't a lot of manufacturing businesses there, I've never had a business reason to visit, either.  Not that I wouldn't mind seeing the fall color change on the trees, but Vermont isn't, and has never been, a high priority.

Hawaii is another matter.  I've searched for reasons to go there, but never found a business reason I could buy off on.  In a few days, however, I will be knocking Hawaii off the list.  Yes, we are taking the whole crew (eight of us) to the new Disney resort (Aulani) on the island of Oahu.  I am definitely psyched.

I'm a bit torn by the plans for the trip, however.  Normally I would rush around trying to see everything there is to be seen.  But my heart is telling me that this trip should primarily be about relaxing.  Maybe there will be a little of each, with a bias toward the relaxing part.

Right now, I'm rushing around trying to get all the remaining tasks at home done (or at least "done enough") to be able to completely forget about everything.  Hope I can remember my computer password when I get back!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Graduation, Take Three.

Graduation for child number three is this weekend, and I face the event with mixed feelings.  I'm proud of Anna for the person she's become, and her achievements in High School.  As much as possible, she's ready to go away to college in the fall.

On the other hand, she's not quite ready to be out on her own just yet.  As an illustration, I offer the following incident, which in retrospect is funny.

On Monday, Anna had a dentist appointment in Fremont, and for the first time she was going to have to drive there on her own.  She'd been to the office many times before, but always as a passenger, and admitted that she didn't remember exactly how to get there.

A bit earlier in the day, I'd overheard her mother suggest she might want to print some MapQuest directions.  Anna replied that her older sister had recently printed some, and she would just use those.  I had an appointment that required me to leave the house about twenty minutes after she was planning to leave.

Five minutes before her planned departure, she was angrily poking buttons on the computer and growling about the printer.  I could only guess she couldn't find the already printed directions, and had, perhaps, waited a bit too long to get them.  I offered my help by hand-sketching a map (which she considered useless -- admittedly not a great rendition), and ended up finding and printing turn-by-turn directions for her.  These I handed to her as she rushed out the door, already running late.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  About five minutes later, the phone rang.

"Dad, I have a flat tire," Anna said.  Sigh.

I looked at my watch, and realized I needed to leave in ten minutes myself.  After briefly considering ordering Anna to call AAA, I loaded some tools in my Suburban, and rescued her on the side of the road.  To her credit, she handled the situation with poise -- not fuming or panicking about being late to the dentist.  It might have been my fastest tire change, ever.  I thought back to the famous scene in "A Christmas Story" as I was taking off the lug nuts.  I made it to my appointment on time.  Anna was forty minutes late, but the sympathetic dentist accommodated her.

Yesterday, I drove her car in to have two new tires put on the rear (the flat was shot, and the tread was so low on it's mate, it wasn't worth keeping).

So, you see, ready for college, but probably not ready to be on her own.

A Little Cheese with that Whine?

I was a little surprised to receive an anonymous comment on my most recent post -- the one concerning getting the boat dock ready for use this spring.  The comment essentially said -- anyone who has a boat on a lake should refrain from complaining.

I admit, I've never liked criticisms, and so this bothered me a bit.  Maybe it hit a sensitive spot.  I responded with a smart-ass quip about how cowardly it is to provide anonymous criticisms.  But a few days later, it was still bothering me.

I re-read the post.  Was I complaining?  It wasn't my original intent to do so, although I freely admit I don't like this particular type of task.  I'd intended to give an illustration of why that old saying, "a boat owner's happiest two days are the first day he owns his boat, and the last day," has some validity.

Would you like a little cheese with that whine, mister Spears?  Yes, it did get a little whiny.  Yes, I was complaining a bit, as well as telling what I thought was a head-shaking and modestly amusing tale.

But was the critic correct?  Did I really have no right to complain, since I live in such an environment of luxury?

I don't think so.

Complaining is a human preoccupation.  I've listened to billionaires complain.  And I'll bet everyone you know well, at one time complains about something.  Your economic condition doesn't dictate whether you need to whine once in a while, but it does probably dictate how bearable it is to listen to the complaints.  I might have crossed the line.

In my defense, I'll note that the "boat" is a pontoon boat with a 50 hp motor -- not exactly high luxury.  My entire lake recreation set-up is one of the most modest on the lake.  But yes, it is still a luxury item, and yes, I do currently live more comfortably than most.

Based on my observations in Ethiopia (and elsewhere in the third world), a refrigerator is a luxury item, and so is air conditioning.  I'm certain my critic would never complain if his automatic icemaker broke every year, and to fix it he had to load it into a truck and haul it to the store while standing in cold water.  That would almost be be a similar hassle factor.

So in conclusion -- yes, I probably will continue to occasionally complain a bit.  Hopefully, I can do so in an amusing way which entertains.  But if it does seem like I need a little cheese with my whine, just move onto another blog post.  No need to comment.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The #@%&!! Spring Boating Tasks

Every spring we go through a new episode of the boating follies.  Or maybe it's a new chapter of boating for dummies -- I'm not sure which.  It seems that no matter how well I've thought through the getting-everything-ready-for-the-season process, and no matter how many times I've practiced it before, every year there's something throws me a curve ball.

This year was no exception, although I suppose I should have recognized what was going on and dealt with it last fall.  It was then, after all, when I noticed the boat lift wasn't going all the way down.  What was the first sign?  When we had our Labor Day party, and I had to have nearly everyone get off the boat once we had loaded so I could back it off the lift.  A few weeks later, when we wanted to take a ride, I had to push the boat out.  By the time I was taking it out of the lake for the winter, it took two of us to shove the stupid thing off the lift.

Yeah, I knew back then that I needed to dredge under the dock.  You see, the lake is shallow where my dock is located.  When I bought the dock, we ended up tying the boat to the side for almost an entire year because the lift wouldn't go down far enough to allow us to get the boat on it.  Eventually, when the property was groomed during construction of our house, I asked the contractor to dig out the spot with a backhoe.

That worked out pretty well -- for about four years.

Over time, entropy sets in -- sand slides downhill into the lake from the yard, and eventually drifts into the hole due to wave action.  Eventually, the hole fills in enough that the lift hits it.

As I thought about this problem during the winter, I decided in the spring I would call a company that advertises regularly in a local magazine to come and dredge the dock area.  But I failed to save a copy of the magazine, so when I was ready, I didn't have the ad.   Couldn't even remember the company's name.  I waited, and waited.  Finally, anew issue of the magazine showed up, and...the ad wasn't there!

Okay.  Murphy's law, I suppose.

I decided I couldn't wait any longer.  I started pouring over the yellow pages.  The only dredger listed nearby I'd talked to four years earlier, and they weren't interested in such a small job.  Damn!  It took me a few days, but I finally realized I should look under "excavators," and I found a company listed right here in Ashland. And they would do the work.  Problem solved.

Well, not quite.  There was still the physical work to do.  On Wednesday, I put on my waders and disassembled most of the dock moorings (can't scoop out the sand under it, if it's still sitting there).  I finished up on Friday morning, and pushed the dock aside.

The excavator showed up right on schedule.  The thing was huge.  It rumbled into the back yard, and in about thirty minutes had scooped enough sand out to make a small mountain on the beach (which I will probably spend the entire summer spreading around the yard).  Another thirty minutes spent working on the dock's ramp area, and we were ready to re-assemble.  Fortunately, the contractor stayed long enough for me to push the dock back into place and secure the mooring lines along with one of the two anchor posts (the other one, alas, was undermined by the scooping, and will have to be reset by the dock company at a later date).  I say "fortunately" because the ramp must weigh three hundred pounds, and it doesn't float.  Getting it reattached to the dock required some fancy work with the excavator, some chain, and the huge one inch bolts used to pin it to the dock.  Eventually, after a few scrapes and much cursing, it was completed.

Today, I managed to get the boat onto the lift, and then put the cover on the dock.  The only remaining tasks are to get the jetski on it's lift, and put out swim markers -- tasks that are at least familiar, if not pleasant.

Oh yeah.  And do something with all that sand...

As I sit here writing this post this evening, my hands hurt from all the rough treatment, and the dozen or so nicks and cuts from all that sharp metal.

And people call boat ownership "fun."  Hmmmm.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Today was Beer Day

I've been thoroughly enjoying this new hobby by spending many hours making different beers.  However, I didn't realize today would end up being "triple witching" Friday.  There were many things that needed to be done to put everything together.

1.  Moved bottles Honey-Orange Ale to fridge to chill.  It is ready to drink.  I had a sneak peek last night (a partially filled bottle), and I thought it was quite nice.

2.  Bottled Donut and Coffee Stout.  I brewed this two weeks ago, and it has already been in the secondary fermenter for a week.  Checked the specific gravity (SG) on this one, and it was a bit high at 1.014, but I needed the bottle soon, so I went ahead and shifted it to bottles.  I went light on the primer (table sugar), and will warm condition it an extra few days and hope the sugar level drops a bit further.

3.  Bottled Sam Adams clone, version 2.  This beer was brewed six weeks ago, and just finished a four week lager in the fridge.  This is my first batch that is bigger than a single gallon -- approximately 2.5 gallons.  It took 19 pint bottles, so it should be available to enjoy a bit longer.  SG on this brew was a low 1.004.

4.  Moved my 3 gallon Delirium Tremens clone to the secondary fermenter.  I'm quite excited about this beer, as it looked great, and smelled even better.  DT is my personal favorite brew, so I hope the clone lives up to original.  When I initially brewed this, the original SG was a bit low (1.064 versus a target of 1.072).  For it to have a chance of hitting the right ABV (Alcohol by Volume) level, I need a very complete fermentation.

And, of course, I spent most of the time actually washing and sanitizing hardware, which is pretty much par for the course when bottling or transferring.

Fun stuff.